The Issaquah School District could close Tiger Mountain Community High School as early as 2015, following a proposal June 25 by school Superintendent Ron Thiele. The school will remain open for the 2014-15 school year. The public will have 90 days to comment on the issue, with two public hearings scheduled for September
“Tonight’s analysis of this rationale is the beginning of a conversation,” Thiele said, noting the sensitivity that comes with a decision to close a school. “We want people to pay attention to this, we want input,” he said.
Thiele said initial conversations were never based around closing Tiger Mountain – rather how the district can better serve those students who are most at risk to not graduate.
“I came to a realization that at the very least, there was going to be a need for some really significant interventions, specifically related to our current alternative high school,” he said.
Thiele began to feel uncomfortable having conversations about Tiger Mountain in private without involving the school’s staff, so in January, he visited the alternative school to speak with them about the idea.
“We’ve had a lot of input,” he said. “And some of that input has changed our thinking in how we move forward, so I think it’s been very valuable to us.”
Thiele said that the rationale for closing Tiger Mountain includes system inequities and system ineffectiveness, citing the following statistics:
- The average participation in free or reduced-price meals across the district’s other high school is just over 8 percent, while at Tiger Mountain it is more than 30 percent.
- The percentage of students receiving Special Education services in the district’s other high schools averages to about 6.5 percent At Tiger Mountain, these students comprise more than 25 percent of enrollment.-The annual rate of referral to Tiger Mountain indicates comprehensive high schools lack resources and skills to effectively serve all students.
- State assessment data at Tiger Mountain is notably lower than that of the comprehensive high schools. The most educationally challenged students at the district’s comprehensive high schools are meeting state standards at higher percentages than all students in Tiger Mountain.
- Average daily attendance rates are 15-20 percent lower at Tiger Mountain than at the comprehensive high schools.
- Tiger Mountain’s small learning community and other attributes should result in a high degree of individualized support to meet learning goals. However, the school’s four-year graduation rate is less than 40 percent and the five-year rate is less than 50 percent.
Thiele proposed a three-year process that would include enhancing support for students and limiting the enrollment for new Tiger Mountain students for 2014-2015, and then closing Tiger Mountain for the 2015-2016 school year while transitioning the remaining students and engaging the community in the design and development of a new high school, which would open in 2016.
Lorraine Michelle, executive director of communications for the district, said there will be two opportunities for pubic comment in September, after which the school board can choose whether or not it wants to put the closure on the agenda. If it does, the board would vote on keeping the open or to close it.
More information on the issue is available at www.issaquah.wednet.edu/schools/TMCHSProposedClosure.aspx.
Kelly Montgomery: 425-391-0363; firstname.lastname@example.org